The Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI), or the Eastern Busway as AT now call it, has rightfully been listed as one of Auckland’s highest priority projects for around a decade. It was listed as the second most important transport project in the region in the 30-year Auckland Plan and has been one of the top items in every local and central government transport plan or policy since, including recent election promises.
It’s a high priority for good reasons. Eastern Auckland is one of the most public transport deprived areas of Auckland. Consequently, it has high levels of auto-dependency and congestion, which is what the project is intended to help address.
Despite this high priority, progress has seemed glacial. It’s especially dismal when compared other projects such as the East-West Link. That was a project that wasn’t even considered a priority on earlier drafts of the Auckland Plan. Yet since 2012 has it has been through numerous planning iterations, including completely changing it’s proposed location (from Mangere) and is on the verge of obtaining consent. AMETI on the other hand has only had its first stage completed (the upgraded Panmure Station and parallel Te Horeta Rd), and that was almost 4 years ago.
Earlier this year Auckland Transport finally lodged a consent for the actual busway, including a new bridge across the Tamaki River, giving us hope there would finally be action on this critical project. Submissions closed in March, however AT have just announced that they’ve reopened notification for some specific properties.
Auckland Council recently accepted a request from Auckland Transport to open a period of re-notification as part of the Notice of Requirement application and specific re-engagement with owners and occupants along Mountain Road, Forge Way and Monaco Place in Panmure. The reason for this request is that recently updated traffic modelling has provided additional detail regarding a potential traffic effect in the vicinity of this area.
In an email to me, they provided this further information
Auckland Transport considers the effect on traffic in the vicinity of Mountain Road (as shown in the new data) as manageable however because this is new information, we feel the community should have the opportunity to review it.
The previous traffic data for this area was for gathered in 2010 and the changes in the data collected in 2017 are attributed to the effects of unexpected levels of population growth. As traffic modelling is an ongoing process, Auckland Transport have reviewed all additional traffic data and the general effects are similar to those presented to the public as part of the original notification process.
The process to re-notify EB1 Panmure to Pakuranga stage will provide an opportunity for local residents, businesses and stakeholders to make submissions based on this new specific information. We believe that this is the best decision for the project and reaffirms our commitment to working cooperatively and collaboratively with the community. The timings for the overall AMETI Eastern Busway programme will not be impacted by this process (pending a final decision of course).
Pending more detailed discussions with Auckland Council, the process will involve:
- Auckland Council rolling out a revised notification process for this stage of the project. All those who previously submitted and affected parties will be informed as part of this process, information will be communicated through public notices and on the Auckland Council website. Submissions close on 1 November
- Auckland Transport proactively engaging and gathering feedback with directly affected stakeholders in vicinity of Mountain Road. This consultation programme will commence in October
- Holding the independent hearing in late 2017 / early 2018
- A decision being made in early 2018 (as opposed to late 2017)
In some ways this highlights the delays with the project perfectly in that they originally collected data for it at least 7 years ago. But more importantly, why is it taking so long to get progress with this project. Had it treated to the same timetable as other, similarly sized projects like the East-West Link or the Northern Corridor improvements, it would likely have had consent issued years ago. Is this happening because it’s Auckland Transport running the project compared to the NZTA with those other big projects? Do we perhaps need to reconsider how we deliver our large strategic PT projects?
I’ve suggested before that perhaps all strategic transport projects should be implemented by a separate agency, likely the NZTA. They’ve already got a few on their list with them taking over the NW Busway and leading the charge on the proposed busway along SH20B to Puhinui.
Alternatively, perhaps AT just think they don’t need to rush. The unfortunate reality of AMETI is that it can’t really open too much before the CRL is completed because there’s simply not the capacity on the rail network to absorb the amount of use the eastern busway would generate.